Monday, September 26, 2016

Samples of Service: September Garden Time

Before we move onto the details of service learning it's important to note just what it might look like at this point in time. This post, and the following two posts, will focus on the service related activities that exist at ASD in each division. This week's focus: Elementary (okay, with a tad of Middle school thrown in for good measure).   It's important to note that this particular post is not about the great things happening in the classroom (and there is lots!) but rather things that are being done in the garden under the enthusiastic leadership of Ms. Carden (dubbed by our elementary schoolers as "Carden in the Garden").   Just this month - a pretty hot one - the garden is already being utilized for awareness and hands-on projects. Let's take a look at a few...

Curiosity begins with a seed: In an effort to encourage whole food snacks and spark curiosity, a planter was placed in the K1 lunch area.  Students have been encouraged to plant any seeds from the veggies and fruits in their snacks.  Last week there was great excitement as the K1 students discovered their first sprout. The students are engaged in making predictions of what it might be... inquiry in action!

Moringa smoothies:  Did you know that this native tree from India is one of the most nutrient dense leaves on our planet?  Among its many amazing qualities is that it contains 7 times the Vitamin C of oranges, 3 times the potassium than bananas, and 4 times the calcium than milk.  Ms. De Leon’s grade two class and Ms. Olliffe's grade seven health class got to experience the health benefits of Moringa by making Moringa smoothies in the garden. Learning through the senses rocks!

Marigolds for the garden: Planting marigolds in the any organic garden is a must.  They aid in pest control and attract pollinators, both great ways to identify benefits of healthy ecosystems and, more practically, a perfect way to talk about practical gardening!  Grade 2H and 2D helped make marigold seed packets and tried a healthy snack of celery sticks, cream cheese and cranberries. Yum!

Bird Seed Adopters: One facet of organic gardening is to feed your predators.  As you might suspect from the name, this ensures both that we have a healthy population of birds around campus and also, and perhaps more importantly, it keeps the birds away from the garden. This small service is hugely helpful in ensuring a positive learning experience for our community, and it looks great too! Every year, classes volunteer to supply bird seed to the various feeders around campus.  It's quite a beautiful sight in the calm of the morning to see students meandering through our campus and taking brief moments to show caring for the natural environment.

What a great month it's been! As we reach September's end ,it's great to know just how much is already going on. And to think that this post is only focusing on one space in a one month period! Add to that the great many conversations that matter inside and outside classrooms, the hundreds of hours spend inquiring, investigating, planning, acting on issues and reflecting on it! These are some essential skills in developing world contributors. It seems like we're well on our way!  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What is Service Learning Anyway?

It used to be that "community service" was all the rage. People would walk up to a beach, take out some bags and clean it. Conversations, if any, were short and anecdotal. After the beach was clean they walked away and, with their exit, the trash slowly collected on the beach once again. There is, in actuality, nothing wrong with this picture. After all, what can be better than students doing their part to support their community? But over the years an increasing amount of research has indicated that sometimes what is perceived as service is counterproductive to what it is originally intended for. Enter service learning. 

The true purpose of service learning is to develop an awareness of self relative to those around us, to develop skills related to becoming a change maker, and to address authentic needs in an authentic manner. it is, by its nature, a systematic approach to developing a service-minded community. 

Key to a service learning experience is the presence of certain characteristics. At ASD the past two years have been spent defining what those characteristics are. Under the leadership of my predecessor, Debra Buffton, these characteristics were identified and shared to the community. They are that:
  • Service learning flows from identified learning targets; generates new learning,
  • Service learning compels action to address a significant challenge, opportunity or situation,
  • Service learning develops understanding of ethical service, and
  • Service learning involves deep thinking and analysis of oneself and one's relationship to society
At ASD we have lots of great service learning going on and subsequent posts will focus on a variety of them.  Increasingly service learning is converging with best practices in teaching because it so well lends itself to inquiry and problem solving. It is excellent for the utilization and development of skills in collaboration, communication, multiple perspectives, creativity and the host of other "21st century skills" that are the focus of current international education. In a nutshell, service learning is a key tool in developing life-long contributors.  

But perhaps more importantly, it's necessary to recognize that service learning is a shift from service as it was previously practiced. The idea is to no longer simply ask students to clean a beach and leave it at that. The idea is to support student agency through an inquiry of what is on the beach, what that can tell us about the problem, what steps might be followed to address the issue. In short, service learning is real life, hands on, in-your-face learning of the authentic kind. 

If you look carefully you'll see the school's mission statement written all over that service learning stuff. It's a perfect fit!

Laurence Myers
K-12 Service Learning Coordinator

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Welcome to a World of Contribution!

Welcome to the new ASD Service Learning blog!  

They say that the eyes are the window to one's soul. This blog serves that very same purpose. But unlike the soul of one, this blog serves as the window to the soul of a school whose purpose it is to develop contributors "in a rapidly changing world". Contributors young and younger... from a three year old learning to care for a vegetable in the garden to the teenager building homes for the less fortunate, to an adult aiming at eliminating Polio, walk through the hallways of this school and you will see amazing things happen nearly every moment of every day. It is the purpose of this blog to shed a light on these, the conversations that take place, the learning that goes on, the personal and collective growth that takes place with every tick of the clock. 

They wonder if a tree falls in the woods with no one around, whether it makes any sound.  This too is a goal of this blog: To highlight the many many things that ASD does but is often missed as we focus on our own lives, on our interests, on our learning. For to take a step back and view this community from a broader view would certainly impress you with the sheer amount that is already taking place here.

They also talk about how education is aimed at preparing students for the real world. Here this is only part of the story. Here we educate with the future in mind, to be sure, but also with the recognition that the here and now provides great opportunities for authentic learning, solution-oriented thinking and future creating. Students here ought to - and most often do - learn so that they can build skills and make a contribution right now, right here. After all, in a rapidly changing world, they also say that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. 

Welcome to the ASD Service Learning Blog! A new home for on-going information, thoughts, activities, curricular conversations, action experiences, sustainable practices, world changing students, 21st century learning challenges and successes. Some small and some large, they are all meaningful in providing for a well-rounded education, second to none.  We hope you'll visit often to bear witness to the celebrations of the contributors of our own rapidly changing world!  

Laurence Myers

K-12 Service Learning Coordinator